Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Concrete Ribbons

Lesa Dryburgh and Michael Trainor
24:7 Theatre Festival
Midland Hotel, Manchester
(2007)

Production photo

The audience for Concrete Ribbons was greeted with a 'sold out' notice at the Victoria Suite in the Midland Hotel, which is a wonderful sight for a festival such as this. However for a play written by one of the area's leading theatre publicists and a well-known local artist and directed by one of Manchester's elder statesmen of the theatre, it would perhaps be expected that plenty of people would come through the door, but satisfying them while they are there is another matter.

The publicity is perhaps a little deceptive as it seems to imply that the play has something to do with a coffin stuck in a lift, whereas this is merely an unseen device to strand the characters in their 11th-floor flat and could be just a broken-down lift. However the fact that it is a coffin, just like the fact that the man is the youngest lollipop man in the region and the woman has the tallest wedding cake you could ever hope to see on such a tiny stage that she is unable to deliver, is just one of the quirky features of this very quirky story. The project they set themselves while stranded is to perform endings of films, plays and eventually Wagnerian opera on their balcony for the benefit of motorists stuck in traffic on the flyover below. The scenes are linked by humorous radio traffic news from a Terry Wogan-like presenter. After lots of laughs the ending, which is about as far from comedy as it could be, is rather a shock.

The play is hilarious at times with a fascinating and unusual concept. Every element of the production is a class above what you would expect from a small festival production, from superb performances by Zoë Thomas and Mark Winstanley on stage and Malcolm Raeburn's hilarious radio commentaries (plus a brief but notable appearance by James Malcolm as the policeman) and Wyllie Longmore's slick direction to Michael Trainor's design and great sound design from Greg Akehurst and Lynsey Hicks.

Just occasionally it seems that the pace is hindered by scenes that are too short or links that are too long, and it does help with some of the gags if you have an audience that knows its theatre with some subtle references to Miller, Shakespeare, Beckett, Osborne and others. However this is an extremely production of an unusual but very funny play that will no doubt have a life beyond the festival.

Andrew Edwards also reviewed this production

Reviewer: David Chadderton